Paria Fuel’s general manager Mushtaq Mohammed says the company took the recommendations of the T&T Coast Guard and four diving companies that it was unsafe to rescue the four LMCS divers trapped in a pipeline at the company’s offshore facility in Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25.
However, two of the companies he named say they were never asked to rescue the men and a third says they only made a decision not to attempt the rescue the next day.
This was revealed in statements made to the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) set up to investigate the accident that led to the deaths of Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar and Yusuf Henry.
In Mohammed’s statement to the CoE, he said around 8.40 pm on February 25, the first day of the incident, he asked Paria’s incident team commander, Collin Piper, to get the T&T Coast Guard to “support the rescue efforts.”
“Between 2238 hours and midnight Friday night (February 25), Collin reported to me that the TTCG did their initial assessment of the situation and concluded that it was too risky to dive into the pipeline. He also reported that another dive company which reviewed the data collected, indicated that it was too risky to send their divers into the pipeline and that they would not do so,” Mohammed said.
He said by midnight, there were specialist diving companies on site, providing feedback and advice.
Mohammed then listed Hull Support Services Limited (HSSL), Offshore Technology Solutions Limited (OTSL), Mitchell’s Professional Diving Services Company Limited (MPDSL) and Eastern Emergency Response Services (EERS).
Representatives from all of these companies, except for MPDSL, also provided statements to the commission and some of them contradict Mohammed’s testimony.
OTSL executive director Antonio Donawa said he was contacted by Paria’s technical and maintenance manager, Michael Wei on the night of February 25.
Donawa said Wei called him and put the call on speaker phone so the incident command team (ICT) could hear his (Donawa’s) responses.
“They asked me what could have happened to the divers and I believed what I said was that they encountered a Delta P incident.
“They did not appear to understand what a Delta P incident was, so I explained it and, in fact, after my explanation, I sent a video to Michael Wei showing a crab being sucked into a pipeline because of a Delta P incident and another giving a detailed scientific explanation,” Donawa testified.
He said the conversation lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, during which time he explained the pressure per square inch (psi) that the pipeline would be under.
Donawa said after that, he told Wei to call him if he needed any more information. But Donawa said he did not speak to anyone from Paria until several days later.
“A few days later, before the retrieval of the bodies, I was asked by OTSL’s CEO, Mr Bertrand, to join a telephone conversation he was having with Heritage. I did join, although I do not recall the exact date. It was me, Mr Bertrand and Mr OC Fleming (Heritage HSE’s Lead) and several others whose names I do not recall. The purpose of the call was to discuss the possibility of doing a penetration dive into the pipeline to search for survivors,” Donawa said.
He said at that time, he advised safety would be an issue, as there was no way of telling whether the pressure in the lines had been equalised.
In his sworn statement, Gyasi Woodley, the operations manager at Hull Support Services, said he was first contacted about the accident around 4.30 pm on February 25.
Woodley said Heritage’s marine lead, Andy Fortune, asked him whether Hull could provide emergency subsea services.
“I did call Andy back at about 5.30 pm and told him that most of the fellows had left for the day and others had family arrangements, but I will keep trying. He told me he would call me back to give me more information,” Woodley said.
He said he later learnt that another Heritage employee, Rolph Seales, had contacted Hull’s diving manager, Anthony Nivet, to request the provision of a decompression chamber.
Woodley said the chamber was operationalised “even though it was not needed by Paria.”
The next day, Woodley said he had more discussions with Seales about treating the accident’s lone survivor, Christopher Boodram, in the decompression chamber. But he said because Boodram was alleged to have had COVID-19 at that time, the treatment was cancelled.
Woodley also remembers speaking to another official about the feasibility of cutting the pipeline.
“On behalf of Hull, I did advise that cutting the horizontal section of the line was risky,” Woodley said.
He said he had no contact with anyone from Paria or Heritage on February 27. He said on February 28, he was told by Fortune that the ICT did not want anyone to go into the pipeline.
“Andy did not request assistance from Hull in relation to any rescue,” Woodley said.
Andy Johnson, the chief of operations of Eastern Emergency Response Services (EERS), also provided a statement to the commission.
He said his team arrived at Paria’s Pointe-a-Pierre facility at 12.30 am on February 26. There, they met with the incident commander at 1.25 am.
Johnson said he could not remember that person’s name but according to documents provided by Paria, Collin Piper had been acting in that role.
Johnson said Piper advised him that Paria may want to engage EERS for a rescue.
“He also advised that due to the variables around the incident, we should prepare ourselves for a retrieval and not a rescue due to the possibility that the divers may have expired,” Johnson said.
He said he told Piper he would need to go to the site to do a visual and dynamic risk assessment.
Several hours later at 3.45 am, Johnson said he had completed his assessment and met with Piper again.
“I informed him that due to the video footage viewed from the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle), there was no way my team would be able to make entry to perform the rescue operation as approximately 120 feet of the 1,200-foot pipeline was filled with water. I told the Incident Commander that because of the water, the rescue required a diving team,” Johnson said.
He said at 5 am, his team was placed on stand-by off-site. They remained there for the next 12 hours.
“At approximately 19:00hrs (7 pm), we were called off the assignment by the Incident Management Team,” Johnson said.